WHAT IS NEGLIGENCE AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Without negligence, you do not have a personal injury case in Georgia. Georgia law requires that a personal injury case/claim include a duty and that the duty or standard care be broken. In most cases, the allegation is that the at-fault party was simply negligent. Negligence – ordinary negligence – is defined as:
In general, ordinary diligence is that degree of care which is exercised by ordinarily prudent persons under the same or similar circumstances. As applied to the preservation of property, the term “ordinary diligence” means that care which every prudent man takes of his own property of a similar nature. The absence of such diligence is termed ordinary negligence.
O.C.G.A. § 51-1-2.
Defining ordinary care and ordinary negligence are exceptionally difficult and really easy. It is hard for some people to put into words what negligence is, but one thing is for sure: almost all of us know it when we see it. Below is the definition/description of ordinary care/negligence found in Georgia case law:
Exactly what constitutes “ordinary care” varies with the circumstances and the magnitude of the danger to be guarded against. Prosser, Law of Torts, 4th ed., §§ 31 and 33 (1971). “Since it is impossible to prescribe definite rules in advance for every combination of circumstances which may arise, the details of the standard must be filled in each particular case.” Id. at § 37, p. 207. Lowe v. Atlanta Masonic Temple Co., 79 Ga.App. 575, 54 S.E.2d 677 (1949). But, to be negligent, the conduct must be unreasonable in light of the recognizable risk of harm. Pound, supra, 158 Ga.App. at 168, 279 S.E.2d 342. See also Prosser, Law of Torts 4th ed., § 31, p. 147.The particular standard of care to be applied and whether the owner breached that standard are usually issues to be decided by a jury.
Lau’s Corp. v. Haskins, 261 Ga. 491, 493, 405 S.E.2d 474, 477 (1991) abrogated by Robinson v. Kroger Co., 268 Ga. 735, 493 S.E.2d 403 (1997).
In negligence cases (car accident cases, slip and fall cases, etc.), we usually are not fighting over whether the the acts would constitute negligence. Instead, we usually are fighting over whether we can actually prove the acts in the way that we believe they happened. For example, in a car accident case, we usually are arguing over how the accident actually happened. There usually is very little argument over whether the defendant was negligent if the accident happened how we believe it occurred.